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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629

Written in the form of a condemned man’s last letter to his former girlfriend, “Africa Kills Her Sun” constitutes a dark satire on the effects of all-encompassing corruption and pervasive graft in Nigerian society and Africa in general. In ironic form, it denounces the economic immorality that took hold in...

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Written in the form of a condemned man’s last letter to his former girlfriend, “Africa Kills Her Sun” constitutes a dark satire on the effects of all-encompassing corruption and pervasive graft in Nigerian society and Africa in general. In ironic form, it denounces the economic immorality that took hold in Nigeria under a continuous military dictatorship that began in 1983 and did not end until 1999. Democracy came too late to save the author. Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned first in 1993 and again in 1994 for his political activism on behalf of his native Ogoni people and was hanged on November 10, 1995, by the military regime.

In the story, Bana reveals himself to be somewhat of an existentialist. From the outset, he tells his girlfriend Zole that she and the others who remain after his death have the worse fate because they have to suffer the injustices of an uncaring world. Bana and his two companions, Sazan and Jimba, who are both sound asleep as he is writing on his last night on earth, will soon have nothing left to worry about. Bana reminds Zole of their unconsummated love, which ended ten years ago but still inspires him.

Bana and the others feel that they have outwitted their corrupt society. Caught and brought to trial, the three robbers agreed to plead guilty to all charges immediately and to demand capital punishment. They did this, Bana writes Zole, to deny the high court judge the power to choose their penalty. They prevented the judge from exercising his corrupt power by being more lenient to one or two of the three equally guilty robbers. For once, Bana insists, the judge had to pass an honest judgment in accordance with the law.

Next, Bana writes of why he became a robber. As a merchant marine, he met a prostitute in Germany. She told him that for her, women’s professions—whether secretary, nurse, or prostitute—were all the same. Impressed by what he felt was the clarity of her convictions, Bana quit his job to work for the Ministry of Defense. There, he learned that every official was bent on robbing the country blind through corruption, so he decided to become an armed robber, which he viewed as a more honest alternative to being part of a corrupt society. At least, he writes, he stole openly.

Bana tells Zole that corruption is endemic in contemporary Africa, where corrupt regimes degrade society and bring misery to their people. He writes that he went to jail only because the corrupt superintendent of police botched their last robbery. He reveals that they always worked in collaboration with the police. However, during their last job, a police officer escorting a money transport shot at the robbers, who returned fire. Although the police wanted to punish some of Bana’s minions, the three bosses decided to face the penalty instead of playing this corrupt game. Bana reveals that he considers himself a kind of Nigerian Robin Hood, who shares his loot with the poor of his gang.

As Bana envisions his upcoming execution in the sports stadium, his letter becomes a bitter reckoning with corruption, which robs the continent’s people. He asks Zole to have a statue sculpted of him because his body will be dumped in an unmarked grave. As Sazan and Jimbo wake from their sleep, Bana implores Zole to have an epitaph inscribed at the base of this sculpture. As the bribed prison guard awakens, Bana finishes his letter, telling Zole his epitaph is to read “Africa Kills Her Sun,” an allusion to the historical lines, “Africa kills her sons,” spoken by an African leader over the grave of a favorite officer. Bana affirms his love for Zole and says good-bye as he is about to be shot.

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